Read an Excerpt
Bodies Are Where You Find Them
A Mike Shayne Mystery
By Brett Halliday
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1969 Davis Dresser
All rights reserved.
Michael Shayne breathed a low-toned "Shayne talking" into the telephone. He snuggled the receiver closer to his ear and listened without further comment. A scowl creased his forehead. His angular features became tight and hard. His gray eyes gazed anxiously through the open bedroom door, and the scowl maneuvered itself into a grin when he saw Phyllis watching him.
Placing his mouth close to the instrument he interrupted the flow of words coming over the wires. "Hold it. I'll go down to my office and get the rest. Tell the operator to switch you downstairs." He wiped beads of sweat from his corrugated brow as he gently cradled the telephone, then hesitated for the briefest instant before turning on his heel and striding through the bedroom door.
Phyllis Shayne stood in the midst of an array of packed luggage in the living-room. Her own dressing-case and hatbox were closed, but Shayne's Gladstones gaped open, waiting for the force of his weight to close them.
Phyllis was flushed and panting from her exertions and from the hot, humid breeze blowing through the east windows at the end of a long sunny August day in the semitropics. She wore a gray tailored traveling-outfit, and moist ringlets of black hair framed her expectant young face. The dancing happiness in her dark eyes changed to an expression of wary speculation when her husband entered the room meditatively massaging the lobe of his left ear between right thumb and forefinger.
"Who was it, Michael? Not anything that will interfere?"
Shayne shook his head with a grin that was intended to be reassuring. "I have to go down to my office for a minute. There's nothing to get upset about, angel."
"Then why are you tugging at your ear?" She moved swiftly to stand between Shayne and the door. "Don't you dare get mixed up in anything. You promised me—"
"Sure, I promised you." He put both his big hands on her shoulders, and the grin stayed on his lips, but his eyes were bleak, and they looked past her. "It'll only take a minute, Phyl.
You get everything ready and be all set for the take-off."
"Michael! I'll die if anything happens now to spoil our trip." Her lips trembled, and her eyes were frightened.
"What can happen?" Shayne asked cheerily. His hands tightened on her shoulders and he bent his head swiftly to brush his lips across her damp forehead. He released her with a little shove and made for the door in long, swinging strides.
"The train leaves in fifty minutes." The words came with a rush from behind him. "No matter who or what it is, Michael, you say no."
"Sure, Phyl." He closed the door without looking back and went hurriedly down the hall past the elevators to a rear stairway and down one flight. Halfway up the hall below he stopped and unlocked the door to the suite which had served him as bachelor quarters before his marriage to Phyllis Brighton. He maintained the small apartment now for conducting official business.
There was a preoccupied expression on the detective's face as he went directly through the living-room to a tiny kitchenette where he put ice cubes in a tall glass, filled it from the faucet. He came back and set the glass near the telephone which was insistently ringing. He let it ring while he went to a wall cabinet and took down a bottle of cognac and a wineglass.
He filled the glass as he stood in front of the desk, emptied it slowly and pleasurably. Refilling it, he sat down and lifted the telephone.
He said, "Hello. Yeh ... I'm in my office now. I couldn't talk freely upstairs. Now, what the hell are you trying to tell me, Marsh?"
His right hand reached out to encircle the slender glass as he again listened. He took a sip of cognac, washed it down with ice water, then said harshly, "Damn it, Marsh, you'll have to pull your own chestnuts out of the fire. My train leaves for New York in forty minutes, and I'm going to be on it."
He listened further, then exploded. "What the hell? Are you going into hysterics over a rumor? Sure, Stallings is liable to pull a fast one. You knew what you were up against when you went into this election."
He emptied the cognac glass while the voice went on, then interrupted angrily. "Of course I want you to win the election. Not that I think you're any better than Stallings, but because I'd hate to see Peter Painter go in as police chief on the Beach. God knows he causes me enough trouble as chief of detectives, but I don't see what I can do by staying here."
Shayne paused, scowling at the wall before him. "No. I've been promising my wife this trip for months. We've made reservations—"
He let himself be interrupted again while Jim Marsh's voice droned on persuasively.
"I'd stay over a day if there was anything you could put your finger on," Shayne said with finality. "I don't run away from trouble. Hell, Jim, there's nothing I can do now. The chips are down and the voters go to the polls day after tomorrow. This mysterious information of yours doesn't mean a damn thing. I'll hear the results in New York."
Shayne listened again, then barked, "What? She's already on her way over here? That's just too bad, because I won't be here to listen to her story."
He pressed the instrument down, cutting off Marsh's final words. The telephone rang immediately. Shayne scowled, hesitated, then lifted the receiver to his ear.
The perturbed voice of the clerk downstairs said, "There's a girl on her way up to see you, Mr. Shayne. She's—well, she acted very queer. Drunk, I guess. Thought I'd better warn you."
Shayne said, "Thanks," and dropped the phone. He strode to the door and out just as the elevator door clanged shut. He darted a glance in that direction as he started to turn toward the stairway. He stopped in mid-stride and stared at the wavering figure of the girl who had got off the elevator.
She was young and slim and expensively gowned, but wore no hat over a wealth of honey-colored hair that was mussed and fell forward, obscuring her features as she bent forward. Her knees appeared to be rubbery, and she swayed against the wall for support, putting out both hands and groping, as though she had suddenly gone blind.
She staggered and went to her knees while Shayne watched in deep perplexity. She lifted herself with great effort and managed three more uncertain steps which brought her close to Shayne's door.
Shayne reached out a long arm to catch her when she started to fall again. She clung to his forearm with both hands and steadied herself, lifted her head slowly so that the disheveled hair parted and fell back to reveal an imploring face which should have been beautiful but was not.
Her complexion was grayish except for ghastly blobs of carmine rouge. Her forehead was tightly wrinkled into a questioning grimace and her lower jaw sagged open. Her eyes were greenish, dull and unfocused, and she blinked wrinkled lids up and down slowly, as though she marshaled all her waning strength and intelligence to force vision to her vacant orbs.
Watching her futile efforts, Shayne gave first aid by slapping her hard on the cheek. Her head jerked sideways, then turned slowly back. The pasty flesh of her cheek held the colorless outline of his fingers.
A spark of life came into the greenish eyes. The girl closed her mouth awkwardly, then mumbled, "'Re you—Mist' Shayne?"
Shayne said, "Yeh." He jerked his arm from her lax fingers and caught her by both shoulders and shook her violently when she would have fallen.
Her head bobbed back and forth lifelessly. When he stopped shaking her she cringed away from him, ducking her head to avoid another blow.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he told her harshly. "I'm Shayne. What do you want?"
She mumbled, "Got to—shee Mist' Shayne. Got to—tell 'im—tell 'im—" Her chin sagged open, and her mumbling wavered into silence.
A door opened down the hall and a group of laughing people stepped out and came toward them. Shayne kicked his door open, thrust the girl inside his office, and slammed it shut. He was breathing heavily and sweat stood on his corrugated brow. Still holding the girl on her feet by a firm grip on her shoulder, he groped with his free hand for the half-filled glass of ice water, dashed it into her face.
The shock brought a momentary gleam of perception to her greenish eyes. She put a wondering hand to her slapped cheek where the marks were faintly tinged with pink.
"It's—'bout—Burt Stallings," she whispered. "He's—I got something that—knock—props— out—" Gray lids closed involuntarily over eyes which had gone vacant and lifeless again. Her jaw worked convulsively and sagged open. She fell face forward on the carpet without putting out her hands to break the force of her fall.
Shayne swore and hurriedly kneeled beside her. He turned her over and pulled an eyelid back. She had gone out like a candle in a tropical hurricane.
Picking her up, he carried her into the small bedroom, dumped her onto the unused bed, and stood back for a moment staring down at her face. A Mickey Finn, he guessed. Perhaps a couple of them. There was no use hoping for an explanation until she slept it off.
He was turning away when he heard a hesitant rap on the outer door and Phyllis's clear young voice calling, "Mike, may I come in?"
He reached the bedroom door in three long strides, went through, and closed it softly behind him. "Sure, Phyl," he called cheerfully. "I was just coming."
Phyllis entered and glanced around the office, then lifted dark, surprised eyes to his when she saw him alone. "Oh, there's no one here. I thought perhaps—"
"My client just left." Shayne grinned reassuringly. He saw her looking at the water glass and the wet splotch on the carpet near the desk. "The guy was drunk," he explained hastily. "Knocked over my chaser as he was leaving."
"Oh." Anxiety gathered in her eyes as she watched him pick up the glass and remnants of ice cubes from the rug. "You took so long," she said, "and the train leaves in twenty minutes."
Shayne took the bottle of cognac from the desk and carried it to the wall cabinet. With his back turned toward her, he took a long time adjusting the bottle in the proper niche, then turned slowly, went to her, and put both hands on her shoulders. Looking into her upturned face he said, "As a matter of fact, angel, I can't go with you. You'll have to catch the train alone. Something has come up—" His gray eyes were bleak and there were deep hollows in his gaunt cheeks.
"Oh, no!" Tears covered her eyes and choked her voice. She clung to him, crying passionately, "I knew it would be like this. Why does our trip have to be spoiled?"
"God knows, I'm sorry, Phyl." He held her tight against him, pressed his cheek against her smooth black hair while he spoke rapidly and persuasively. "It'll only be for a couple of days. You go on. I should have known I couldn't get away before election. Marsh is up against something that means defeat if I don't pull him out."
"Does the election matter so much?" Phyllis sobbed. "Suppose Marsh is defeated?"
Shayne made a wry face over her head. "If he's defeated it means I'm through in Miami, Phyl. I've backed him publicly. Everybody realizes it's a fight between Painter and me. If I let Marsh go under, it'll be the end of a lot of things."
Phyllis stiffened in his arms and lifted a tear-wet face to him. "Then I'll stay, too. You can cancel the reservations."
Shayne shook his head. "You'll help more by going on. It's going to be dirty below-the-belt fighting for the next two days. You'd only be in the way."
She studied his face for a long moment, saw the grim look of determination she knew so well. She sighed and relaxed against him, knowing that this was something apart from their lives together, something she could never share with him, a part of Michael Shayne which he would not relinquish to marriage. She had secretly known it would be like this when she stubbornly pursued him and forced herself into his life.
Her eyes cleared and she stood on tiptoe to kiss him. She said, "We'd better get started. We haven't much time."
"You're a nice person, angel," he said gravely.
Phyllis laughed. That was the compliment she liked best from her husband. She checked the time on her tiny wrist watch and exclaimed, "Gracious! I've got to hurry. I came down here to get my gray hat, Mike. I can't find it anywhere upstairs and thought I might have left it here." She started for the bedroom.
Shayne's nostrils flared with a sharp intake of breath. He was stricken with panic as she moved toward the bedroom door.
She half turned, poised to go on. "What?"
"That gray traveling-hat? You mean the dinky one with a bow on the side? The one that makes you look like a demure imp about to sprout wings?"
"That's the one. It must be down here."
"I know right where it is," he lied hastily. "It's way back on the shelf in the big closet upstairs."
Phyllis's eyes clouded with concentration. "I felt on that shelf and couldn't find it. I'll just take a peek in the bedroom to be sure."
"Good Lord, Phyl, you'll miss the train." Sweat streamed from his face. He caught her when she was two feet from the bedroom door and urged her toward the outer door. "Come on—I'll get that hat for you. I can see on that shelf."
Phyllis's reluctant feet stopped suddenly and she pulled back. "Why didn't you want me to go in that room?"
He lifted her through the door and slammed it shut. Outside, he said, "If you must know, I had to put my client to bed. He passed out completely and I'm holding him until he comes to and spills his information. It's important."
"In that case, I might as well have looked for my hat," she argued as his arm lifted her up the stairs. "It's the one I wear with this suit."
"You've six minutes to catch the train," he reminded her when they entered the living-room. Shayne strode to the bedroom closet and returned triumphantly bearing the gray hat. Tossing it to her with a command to put it on in a hurry, he swept up the bags and preceded her to the waiting car.
Taking a back-street route to the station, Shayne sat moodily beside her. Presently he said, "This is the first time for us to be separated, angel." He frowned, recalling many hilarious jokes about husbands getting rid of their wives and wondered if the time would come when he would feel that way.
"You're to take the first train to New York when the election is over," she said flatly. "If you don't, I'll take the first one out of New York."
Shayne grinned widely and stepped on the accelerator. The train was ready to pull out when he rushed her up the steps and kissed her good-by. Stepping back on the cinder path he watched the long train roll slowly northward while a strange admixture of relief and desolation roiled through him.
He stood there for several minutes, until the train vanished from sight and the whistle sounded for a distant crossing. Unconsciously, the problem of the drugged girl in his office bedroom was a depressing one, while consciously he meditated on the ease with which a man succumbs to pleasant habits. A little more than a year ago he had not known that Phyllis existed, and now he was wholly dejected without her. The way he had rushed her off, one would think he was glad to be rid of her.
During his bachelor years he had taken his women in his stride. They had been a part of the bold, rough life he led. Was it possible that he was the victim of a subconscious urge which he wouldn't even admit to himself, in spite of a year of marriage to a girl like Phyllis? He didn't honestly think so. Yet, what man ever really knows his inward motivations?
He became conscious of the movement and commotion around him, the rattling of express carts on gravel, the puffing of engines and clanging of bells, the milling throng of people. He shrugged off a baffled sense of irritation and went to his car.
The sun was setting in a gray-blue mist as he stepped on the starter. He remembered suddenly that he had not locked the door of his office in his frantic haste to get Phyllis away from the scene. He slipped the car into gear and pressed the accelerator to the floor board, driving the six blocks to his apartment in four minutes. He parked at a side entrance just in front of a drawbridge over the Miami River.
Excerpted from Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday. Copyright © 1969 Davis Dresser. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.